Healthy Living

What is Chronic Diarrhea?

What is Chronic Diarrhea?

Key Takeaways

  • Chronic diarrhea is caused by harmful bacteria and transmits through contaminated food or water.
  • One must keep hydrated to avoid dehydration.
  • Some cases of chronic diarrhea may be remedied by simply starting or stopping your medications. 

Diarrhea is a common waterborne disease that can be caused by irritable bowel syndrome or increased secretion of fluid through the intestines. It can be classified into two types- acute and chronic diarrhea.

What is Chronic Diarrhea?

Chronic diarrhea is defined by the reduction of stool consistency that lasts for more than 4 weeks. This will usually equate to about three loose stools in one day. Though chronic diarrhea is common, it can be a serious health issue if any complication arises. It can be a life-threatening disease for the people with a very weak immune system. Chronic diarrhea can be categorized as water, fatty, and inflammatory having individual impacts. It cannot be avoided that the disease can have a substantial impact on the quality of life and overall health of the person suffering from it as at its mildest, diarrhea is an inconvenience, but at its worst, it may be disabling or even possibly fatal

What are the Causes of Chronic Diarrhea?

There are a large number of factors which can cause diarrhea, some of the most common causes include the irritable bowel syndrome which is one of the most common causes of chronic diarrhea. IBS can cause cramps, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits. Another cause is the inflammatory bowel disease - there are many types of IBS, two of the most common are Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis. These conditions often times develop when the body's autoimmune system mistakenly attacks the digestive tract. Some intestinal infections are also a cause of chronic diarrhea which can be developed after eating contaminated food or ingesting dirty water. Apart from this, various food allergies, as well as hypersensitivity to certain foods, can cause chronic diarrhea or contribute to inflaming Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Celiac disease causes a gluten sensitivity, which is a major component of wheat flour that can cause diarrhea and weight loss. Patients with lactose intolerance may develop gastrointestinal distress when consuming dairy products. The main factors causing chronic diarrhea are typically:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – which is the most common reason of chronic diarrhea
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Microscopic colitis - which is responsible for inflammation causing chronic diarrhea. It mainly attacks adult people and shows symptoms during the night
  • Viruses or bacteria having a laxative effect can lead to chronic diarrhea. One must select the right medication by consulting a doctor to recover this illness
  • Chronic diarrhea may even occur when human body absorbs harmful ingredients resulting in an impaired digestive function

What causes chronic diarrhea to spread?

Chronic diarrhea is not infectious and thus does not transmit from one person to another. It is usually spread by the intake of contaminated food or water. One can also catch chronic diarrhea if they touch anything contaminated with stool.

How can Chronic Diarrhea be prevented?

There are several ways to prevent chronic diarrhea:

  • Drinking purified water that is treated properly.
  • Handling and preparing foods properly
  • Maintaining a good level of hygiene.
  • Washing hands before going to the kitchen and after leaving the toilet.
  • Maintaining the required temperature in the refrigerator.
  • Using toilet paper.

What are the Risk factors of Chronic Diarrhea?

Several risk factors are associated with chronic diarrhea. It can cause malnutrition and some nutritional disorders which can be highly dangerous if not treated properly. Immunocompromised people, HIV patients are at a high risk. They must consult doctors before any complication happens to them.

How to Diagnose Chronic Diarrhea?

Seek immediate medical attention if you have watery or loose stools (or any of the other symptoms mentioned above) that last more than three or four weeks. During your visit to the clinic, it is important that you mention when your diarrhea first began, as well as any recent changes in medicines or medical problems. After which a physical exam and health history is the first step of the chronic diarrhea diagnosis. The healthcare provider asks for further tests depending on the symptoms and reports found from the physical test. A stool and blood sample needs to be provided to the doctor for finding out the type of pathogen responsible for the patient's disease. If there is any probability of parasite attack, doctors will be needing reports of some special tests too. If the initial tests fail to determine the cause of diarrhea, further tests are done such as endoscopy or x-ray to complete the diagnosis. Endoscopy is such a procedure that requires a large tube to insert through the mouth opening and the doctor can see the intestine from the intestine through the tube.

What are the Treatment for Chronic Diarrhea?

The most effective treatment for chronic diarrhea will be the treatment of the underlying cause. In some cases, treatment may be as simple rethinking your diet or discontinuing a medicationrf. Your doctor or specialist might recommend trying a treatment before further analyzing the disease. Some treatments that might be suggested include:

● Antibiotics to manage infection

● Discontinuing a medication

● Reconsidering your diet, to account for a possible food allergy, or for a problem absorbing nutrients (such as lactose intolerance)

Chronic diarrhea can also be treated by:

  • Following the healthcare provider's treatment plan
  • Antibiotics or other drugs prescribed by the doctor. One must discuss with his doctor to select the right medication
  • Some chronic diarrheas are so serious that they need surgery to get rid of the disease
  • Remaining hydrated and consuming foods containing required electrolytes is a great way to treat chronic diarrhea
  • Maintaining a well-balanced diet speeds up the recovery process
  • Alcohol must be avoided to stay away from dehydration
  • Carbonated beverages, drinks that contain caffeine (tea, coffee) should be avoided

The Bottom Line

Chronic diarrhea is the most serious among the types of diarrhea. It can be life-threatening if overlooked. People having chronic diarrhea become feeble as it lasts longer than 4 weeks. They must drink enough water to stay hydrated and follow a healthy diet plan to stay strong. If you find yourself becoming dehydrated, you may be given fluids into a vein to replace the fluids and salts lost in diarrhea. This will not assure to cure your diarrhea, but it will prevent more life threatening side effects.